It was the end of the working day. I sat on the end of the bed looking at the wall the plush Hilton Hotel room on Edgware Road in London. I was tired after a day in the consulting trenches working for an indifferent client but was aware something else really wasn't right.
I had the 'big career' with a six-figure salary, turned left on every plane. I flew on, stayed in the best hotels in the world working for big, 'prestigious' clients, had the house, the car, the holidays and a wife that loved me.
And yet, this particular evening, I felt miserable to my bones and all I could think was, "Is this it? Is this the rest of my life?" All was not well within and I didn't know why. Outwardly, everything - by most measures people use to judge these things - was 'a success.' So why did I feel this way? At the time, I had no clue.
The headline on the advert in the evening paper said, "Get the life you deserve!'. That sounds exactly like what I need, I said to myself. A two hour, free evening seminar just across town. So I went to do just that, to get the life I deserved.
I learned two valuable lessons that evening. First...there's no such thing as a free seminar! Secondly, I came into contact with neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and began a 13-year journey of self-discovery and 'fascinating' results (adventures that wouldn't look out of place in the script of a soap opera at times).
It took me 9 years and 9 months to pay off personal debts of £186,000 ($249,606) which included handing back the keys to my expensive, detached house, supporting my ex-wife for 3 years and part paying her debt, before we finally divorced, dealing with being cut off by my family for 3 years and the financial consequence of an acrimonious and messy divorce.
During that time I managed in cash and lived in a YMCA and hostel wearing a three-piece suit for a while. Little did I know at the outset of the journey that I was the creator of all this mayhem and misery.
As we like to say in leadership circles, there was a need for me to wake up, grow up, clean up and show up.
During the course of the journey, I wanted to learn how to deal with crippling stage fright. I loved to play music and would always end up a nervous wreck, frozen to the spot when called upon to perform in public.
Having trained in NLP, Energy Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching, I thought I had all the tools I needed to conquer my fear. I had done several firewalks, parachuted from a plane at 13,000 feet and learned how to perform a stunt called 'suicide jump'. This is the equivalent of jumping off a 3 storey building onto a mat (I have the video footage to prove it!).
Nothing worked until I became an expert in what turned out to be developmental trauma and its impact on our interpersonal neurobiology. They say there's 'me-search' in research and I collected over 2,000 journal articles, listened to every podcast and read every book on the subject.
Let's just say it whilst it took more than a little while to accomplish...here I am. Finally showing up having reached the other side of all this with a real 'inside track' on how to cultivate leadership capacity and character and how to become resilient.
I blend my personal learnings from experience with adult development theory, my consulting experience and a range of tools to help leaders (i.e. all of us) develop their capacity and character to lead at a time when we most need it.
Bad leadership installs trauma and to me, not enough organisations or people know this and yet individual and collective trauma contributes to the escalation in mental health issues.
I choose to work with individuals and organisations whose focus is on solving the problems that don't yet have an answer on Google.
The quality of leadership is a reflection first of the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves. We cannot lead others until we have a good quality relationship with ourselves.
Never have we seemed to want real leadership more, yet wanted the leaders we have less.
Great leadership is about capacity (i.e. our ability to adapt and to think) not technical skills (e.g. negotiation). My work focuses on developing leadership capacity and character, how to upgrade our own internal operating system to lead more effectively and influence business performance.
The final piece of my story is that 'I walk my talk'. You can't take a stand like this and not do that. I do this in two ways.
First, I took up Aikido two and a half years ago. It is a non-violent martial art whose central purpose is to take aggression and use its energy to restore harmony to the world with love. The tenets and practice of Aikido offer a practical approach to help people develop leadership capacity and character as a set of daily rituals and practices.
Secondly, The Elevate Partnership intends to sacrifice a proportion of profit to help young men who are potentially overwhelmed by life, for whatever reason, to the point where they consider adopting a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Like many, my family lost two young men to suicide over the last 15 years. Both of them were under 35 and one them had four young children.
As part of my business, I want to build a space for young men so that they have an opportunity to pause and take stock, be listened to without judgement and reconnect with their spirit of joy to rediscover and choose a life worth living. I want to build one on every continent and to fund each one in perpetuity after I'm gone.
Today, I am truly blessed. I love my life, my wife, our animals, my friends and the place of nature where we live.
I look forward to serving you and helping you achieve your mission in life.
United Kingdom 🇬🇧